The message is simple enough - "just get moving." Health experts advocate increasing your daily physical activity level to lower your risk for developing chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Extended periods of sitting can have detrimental effects on your health. But, so can exercise if you approach it in the wrong way.
Exercising improperly carries its own set of risks that range from minor musculoskeletal injuries to even death (in rare circumstances). So, how can you make sure your good intention to increase your daily dose of exercise doesn't turn against you? Review the list below of common mistakes made while exercising and the solutions to avoid these pitfalls during your workout.
Failure to warm-up and cool-down properly: You may be tempted to eliminate these components of your exercise session when you are short on time. But, both have very important roles in maintaining the safety of your exercise.
Improper set-up of exercise equipment:
- Warm-up phase: This component prepares your body for the conditioning segment of your exercise session. By gradually increasing the intensity of the physical activity over a 5-10 minute period, you avoid abrupt increases in your heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP). Sudden increases in HR and BP can place excessive demands on your heart and, consequently, trigger an abnormal heart rhythm or chest discomfort.
- Cool-down phase: Dizziness and/or fainting can result if you abruptly stop the exercise activity. The purpose of the cool-down component of your exercise session is to gradually lower your heart rate and blood pressure toward pre-exercise levels over a 5-10 minute period. By gradually lowering the intensity of your activity, you prevent the blood from pooling in your legs, which could result in an insufficient supply of blood and oxygen to your heart and brain. The cool-down phase reduces your risk for experiencing an episode of dizziness and/or fainting by helping to bring the blood and oxygen back to these vital organs.
To prevent injury, you will want to familiarize yourself with the various functions of the exercise equipment you will be using.
Improper technique during strength training exercises:
- If using exercise equipment at home, read the machine's entire instruction manual prior to use to ensure that you have adjusted its components (e.g., pads and seat) correctly for your body type/frame to avoid injury. For instance, riding a stationary bike with the seat set at the wrong height is a common mistake and can cause knee discomfort/problems. The seat should be set at a height that allows for a slight bend in your knee during the down stroke phase of pedaling.
- If using exercise equipment at a fitness center, take advantage of the personal training sessions that many of these places offer as part of your membership so that you can receive instructions on proper use.
Failure to cross-train or add variety to your workout:
- Remember to breathe while lifting weights. Exhale as you exert the force.
- While performing squats and lunges, do not allow your knees to bend beyond your feet. Also, lift with your legs, not your back, while performing these types of exercises.
- Do not rush your repetitions. Follow a tempo that will allow you to complete the exercise in a smooth and controlled fashion. Typically a 3-digit tempo method is followed with each notation representing the number of counts (e.g., seconds) it should take to complete the exercise through the joint's full range of motion. The first digit represents the eccentric phase (lowering the weight); the middle number represents the "bottom" of the exercise or the point at the end of the eccentric phase; and the third digit represents the concentric phase (lifting the weight). Therefore, if you are following a tempo of 4/0/2, you would lower the weight in a count of four; not pause at the end of the eccentric phase; and, would lift the weight for a count of two.
Performing the same exercise program can lead to overuse injuries, boredom, and burnout. To maintain motivation and to ensure you are exercising the major muscle groups of your body, incorporate various modes of exercise into your routine throughout the week. For instance, participate in a fitness class a couple of times a week and on alternate days, try swimming laps or going out for a jog.
Heed the advice of health experts and "just get moving," but do so in a manner that will not cause injury in the long run. Educate yourself on proper technique and equipment use and engage in all components of the exercise session (e.g., warm-up).
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
Muscle Mechanics - Correct Technique for 65 Resistance Training Exercises, Second Edition. pp. 46-47, Aaberg, E.
Labels: cool-down, lifting technique, warm-up